Live From Freedom Hall (Roadrunner)
Housed in a regular 2CD jewel case, this set offers a CD plus a DVD of said show, yet neglects to say anywhere what the heck "Live From Freedom Hall" is supposed to mean to us, i.e. the wheres, whens and whys - thanks very much. We do however get the band lineup, which reminds one of the immense, unfurling tapestry of mercy-void mortality that is Skynyrd - second to last man standing Billy Powell and bassist Ean Evans (now the younger journeymen are even dropping) are both dead. I've actually been in a strange Skynyrd space lately, putting all of their solid, efficient yet interchangeable newer albums in heavy rotation and having them grow into the fibre of my being, and so it's actually a bit of a bummer that this is set is so heavy on the tired ol' hits, new tracks being but two: American-loving ballad of new country coziness 'Red White And Blue' and snarling Blackfoot-chunky rocker 'Workin'. Still, Rickey, by force of his positivity and Johnny, by force of his Ronnie, make all of these songs arguably better in some ways, i.e. tighter, fuller, heavier - essentially, Skynyrd may paint by numbers, but they don't screw up, the full-range production of this live pack being further proof. Long-time (and ex-Damn Yankees) drummer Michael Cartellone is a big part of the booming mass package of people firing this franchise as well, and you really can't come away with anything but a smile, given the storm of forlornness these guys have had to live through decade past decade.
Sanctify The Darkness (Nuclear Blast)
These Greek yuksters are making waves with their second collection of far better than average and not particularly retro German thrash blur-bys. You might call this blackened thrash, given the Slayer-esque lyrical spit-outs, and even musically it's unapologetically fast and occasionally bumble bee of riff. But really, the spirit of this well-regarded act is closer to (and achieves with cracked smile and bro hug) Kreator, Destruction, and even Rage when a higher level of sophistication briefly flashes before the return of 'eads down, meet you at the end. Tight, clear, and quickly onto the next good idea, Suicide Angels are a spunky, worthwhile, young addition to the neo-thrash movement, the bonus being that neither the delivery nor the lyrics of mic-man Nick betray his Greekness to any palpable detriment.